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Durbin, Elizabeth (ed.) / Wisconsin Academy review
Volume 25, Number 4 (September 1979)

Turner, Stephen C.
A place too far,   pp. 11-13


Page 11


A place too far
I L~~~~~111w
   by Stephen C. Turner
illustrated by Tom Strobel
  A   ndy Martin pointed his rifle toward the
darkened sky and pulled the trigger. The barrel flashed
and the butt slammed back against his shoulder. He
lowered the rifle and worked the lever. Again he fired
aimlessly at the sky. And again. Three evenly spaced
shots. Then, laying the barrel across his left arm, he
leaned back against the birch tree behind him and drew
a deep breath. The cold air stung his throat and lungs.
He was lost. And scared.
  Before sunrise, his uncle had led him to this place.
And here he had stood all through the gray November
day, leaning against the ragged birch and staring down
the firirng lane toward the buck scrapings his uncle had
found.
  "Stand up there, Andy," Uncle Jack had said, point-
ing toward the birch. "That bastard will be back here
sooner or later. And from up there you'll have a perfect
shot."
  And so Andy had hiked up the slow rise through the
deep, wet snow. Through the gray morning and less
gray afternoon, Andy had stood and watched and
waited. And now it was dark and he did not know his
way back to camp.
  He should have known the way, he told himself.
Ten miles to the south was the nearest road, the county
trunk he and his father and uncle had driven in on
yesterday from Escanaba. But which way was south? If
he knew that, he would know the way to the camp. It
was northeast of him, he knew. But he did not know
which way was south and the cloudy skies hid the stars
that might have given him his bearings.
  He had seen no deer during that long day, but he
had heard rifle shots, which must have come from his
uncle's or his father's 30-06. They were hunting a few
miles away. But no other hunters were within 20 miles,
his uncle had said. They were surrounded by a
wilderness broken only by the remains of abandoned
logging camps and overgrown logging roads.
  Perhaps his Uncle Jack or his father had killed a
deer. Both men were excellent shots and killed every
season. Perhaps even now they were eating venison
steaks in the warmth of the cement block cabin the
men had built over 20 years ago. It was against the law,
of course, to eat venison in hunting camp, but the
DNR men had never come to this place. It was too far
from everything and there were too few hunters to
worry about.
  Or perhaps the men were drinking whiskey and
listening to the portable radio. Maybe they hadn't
heard the shots at all. Maybe he should fire again. Even
if they didn't hear, firing the rifle at least made Andy
feel better. Uncle Jack had shown Andy the tracks of
the bear that had found the camp's garbage burial. It
was a brown bear, Uncle Jack had said. A small one but
powerful.
  Andy raised the rifle and fired again. Shots split the
quiet. Once. Twice. Something rustled in the cedar
brush behind him. Andy turned, pointing the rifle
toward the noise and releasing the safety. He blinked
and tears edged cold on the corners of his eyes.
  "Uncle Jack?" Andy called. "Dad?"
  "Andy! What the hell are you shootin' at?"
  "Is that you, Uncle Jack?"
  "No, you damned fool, it's a talking bear."
  Andy lowered the rifle, silently flicking on the safe-
ty, glad that in the dark the men could not see where
his rifle was pointing.
  "Man's got to know where he is at all times in the
woods," Uncle Jack said.
  "I thought I taught you better than that," his father
said. "What happened?"
  "Everything looked different after dark," Andy
said.
  "And you panicked and started shootin' lead all over
the woods, didn't you?" his father said.
  "Yes, sir," Andy said.
  He could not see his father's face, but Andy knew he
was angry.
  "Come on," Father said. "We'll talk about it
later."
  The men said nothing as Andy followed them back
to the warmth of the cabin. They knew the way and
walked directly, silently and heavily through the dark
and the deep snow. In 15 minutes they were inside,
kicking off their heavy Sorel boots and changing from
their red Sioux woolens into overalls and flannel shirts.
  It was time to eat, and Andy, because he had not
killed a deer yet, was the cook. It was a camp tradition.
In a heavy iron skillet on top the rusty woodburning
stove, Andy fried venison steaks in lard. He could fit
only two steaks in the skillet and so he was at the stove
for a long time, not eating himself until after the five
men had had enough of the steak and bread and beans.
  After dinner, the men cleared the table and threw a
gray wool blanket over it so they could play poker.
September 1979/Wisconsin Academy Review/li


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